DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun Stadium
THE long wait is over. Scotland finally broke their 15-match losing streak – an unwanted record stretching back almost three years – by better harnessing the treacherous conditions and playing with a lot more discipline than their Welsh opponents.
“It was a tough night, but great learning for our players and particularly our game managers about how to play this kind of weather,” said victorious head coach Kenny Murray. “It’s not easy playing against the wind, its tough. You’re trying to do things but you can only do so much. I thought we did really well and I’m really, really proud of them.
“It’s a big night for them but also a big night for Scottish rugby. It’s been a tough year, a tough three years, I suppose, for under-20s, so for us it’s a really big step in the right direction.”
With that wind at their backs in the first half, Scotland first flashed their teeth when Corey Tait made good ground off an overthrown Welsh line-out, but they then suffered an early set-back when losing a distraught Callum Norrie to a shoulder injury after just nine minutes. However, the home side didn’t let that knock them off their stride, and they opened the scoring in the next play by kicking a penalty to the corner, sending Ruairaidh Hart high to gather possession, and then powering the maul over the line for Rudi Brown to finish off.
Wales dominated possession during that first quarter, but Scotland were sharper with ball in hand, and sniping half-backs Richie Simpson and Ben Afshar both managed to pierce the red defensive line.
The hosts also stretched Wales on the left when slick hands transferred possession from another misfired line-out right along the home 22, before Ben Evans‘ smart hack ahead established the field position from which Afshar was able to kick his team three points further ahead a few phases later off a late-tackle penalty.
Wales were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when scrum-half Archie Hughes was yellow-carded for not rolling away after the tackle. It was perhaps a harsh call but whistle-happy Australian referee Reuben Keane had lost patience with the visitors, who he had penalised eight times during the first 35 minutes.
Scotland spent the remainder of the half camped on the Wales line, but Tait being dragged into touch as he tried to escape down the short side of a line-out maul, Sam Derrick losing sight of the ball at the base of a scrum and a dose of white-line-fever across the blue ranks contributed to the hosts failing to make that pressure count on the scoreboard.
Wales were then reduced to 13 men in injury-time of the first half when Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths was carded for taking out Afshar after the ball was away.
“I wasn’t sure at half-time if we’d done enough to win the game,” admitted Murray afterwards. “Not getting that try to take us to 15-0 made me a bit panicky, but we’ve got a screen in the changing room with a ‘storm pattern’ on how we play against the wind, so we looked at that during half-time and I thought we managed the game really well and showed a lot of tenacity.
“We spoke a lot before the game about not letting the guy beside you down because of how hard your working and I thought we did that really well tonight.”
Despite being two men down, wind-propelled Wales started the second period in commanding fashion, claiming their first try of the night in the 44th minutes when Morgan Morse picked up from the base of a solid scrum and powered past Scotland’s sleepy defence. It was his third try in his third match at this level against Scotland, and Daniel Edwards stepped up to slot the conversion, making it a one-point game.
To their credit, Scotland rallied immediately, with full-back Dan King breaking through the middle, and man-of-the-match Liam McConnell thought he’d wrestled his way over the line after another powerful burst from Brown, only for the TMO to rule that the ball had been held up.
Scotland doubled-down and eventually got their reward from a penalty try, when Morse was called for lifting an opponent’s leg to disrupt a line-out maul which was powering towards the visiting line. The Welsh flanker was yellow-carded for his troubles, meaning his side were down to 14-men just a few second after returning to full strength.
But the visitors responded positively with Edwards kicking three more points after Kerr Yule strayed offside chasing a sliced clearance, and they then scored the try of the match when great hands from Edwards and Cam Winnett gave Oli Andrew a sniff on the right, and he danced back inside three dark blue jerseys then stretched out of a tackle to score. Edwards drilled home the conversion to put his side ahead for the first time in the match with 55 minutes played.
Momentum appeared to be with Wales and it took good work by Jonny Rutherford over the tackled man in yo earn a turnover penalty in front of his own posts posts, and Scotland battled up-field to recapture the initiative with hands-in-ruck penalty kicked by King.
Wales threatened again when Lewis Lloyd went close but he needed a double-movement to get over the line meaning the try was rightly chalked off, and Scotland once again worked their way into Wales’ half.
Then a no-arms tackle awarded against Freddie Chapman allowed King to run down the clock as he lined-up a kick at goal, and although his effort came off the post, Scotland stayed focussed to close out the game.
There was a fourth yellow-card against Wales in the final minute when Lloyd was collared for tip-tackling Duncan Munn.
Scotland: D King; W Robinson, D Munn, K Yule, B Evans (L Jarvie 56); R Simpson, B Afshar; C Davidson (R Deans 47), C Tait (J Blyth-Lafferty 47), C Norrie (M Ogunlaja 9), J Parkinson, R Hart, L McConnell, R Brown, S Derrick (J Rutherford 57).
Wales: C Winnett; L Morgan, L Hennessey, H Ackerman, O Andrew ( T Florence 56); D Edwards, A Hughes (H Williams 70); D Kelleher-Griffiths (F Chapman 74), S Scarfe (L Lloyd 58), E Fackrell (T Pritchard 66), L Edwards, R Woodman, M Martin (F Chapman 43-50), M Morse (L Giannini 66), H Davies (O Evans 38).
Scotland: Tries: Brown, Penalty Try; Pen: Afshar, King.
Wales: Tries: Morse, Andrew; Con: Edwards 2; Pen: Edwards.
Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 8-0 (h-t) 8-5; 8-7; 15-7; 15-10; 15-15; 15-17; 18-17;
Yellow cards –
Wales: Hughes (35mins), Kelleher-Griffiths (40mins), Morse (50mins), Lloyd (79mins)